This short story came 2nd place in an online writing competition at LifeofWriters. The competition was themed with the opening paragraph:
It is a rainy Wednesday morning and Rebecca is on her way to a meeting. She has been waiting on this meeting for months and now the day has arrived. She got up early to take a long shower, do her makeup, and get dressed nicely. She wants to make a good impression.
She gets out of her car and walks the rest of the way, but as she passes a shop window, she stops. Her eyes are fixed at the window, looking inside the shop, and she cannot believe what she is seeing. She doesn’t move a bit, she just keeps looking.
It is perfect. A dress so sublime that her breath catches in her unsightly throat. She can imagine slipping the dress down over her wide shoulders. So smooth that it would wipe away her usual insecurities of how rough her skin felt. The dark olive will perfectly match her eyes. After her meeting, as soon as she recovered, she would buy this dress. She considers buying it immediately but is aware of the eyes on her. People have begun to stare. Flustered, she hurries quickly on her way.
In recent years she had become afraid to venture outside. She couldn’t change who she was, she had embraced that and yet others judged her constantly. Her confidence was shattered. Once, she had been brave, fearless, but eventually the derogatory remarks, the leering, they all took a toll.
Her heels clack against the hard cobbled street. Each step brings more unwanted attention. Please don’t laugh at me, she pleads. She is almost there. Two burly men lean against the wall, taking a smoke break. She tries to keep her head down as she passes them, but she had always been quite tall.
One of them heckles her. She tries to block it out, pretending that the words had instead been something kind, like, ‘good morning, beautiful.’
Her hand clasps nervously around the door handle. It’ll all be over soon, she thinks with relief.
As Rebecca enters the building the receptionist greets her warmly. She smiles widely, taken aback by her genuine kindness.
‘There you are,’ the receptionist says as she walks forward and hooks Rebecca by the arm, ‘we were just beginning to wonder if you had gotten lost. Vincent is already waiting so I’ll take you straight through.’
‘Don’t I need to sign in?’ Rebecca asks politely.
‘Oh, don’t worry about that,’ replies the receptionist, ‘I already have all your details on file. Please come with me.’
Rebecca is led along a short corridor, coming quickly to a door. The sign upon it reads: Dr Vincent Wright. The receptionist opens the door and ushers her in before she has time to think.
The walls of the small office are adorned with examples of the doctor’s work. She stared at them longingly and with awe. For the first time in a long time she feels hope. Finally she can envision being herself.
‘Pleased to finally meet you,’ the doctor said amicably, ‘please take a seat.’
She sits, carefully smoothing out her skirt as she does so. The doctor is attentive, asking if she would like a refreshment. Rebecca shakes her head, too excited to wait any longer.
As the receptionist closes the door the doctor begins to discuss her treatments.
‘Now, Rebecca. I know we have discussed this over the phone and I know how much this means to you but I have an obligation to make you fully aware of all the risks,’ he says. As he speaks Rebecca nods impatiently. She has waited too long to turn back now.
‘Good,’ he says finally, ‘then there is only one thing left before we proceed. We need you to sign and confirm that you agree to everything we have just discussed.’ He gives her a slightly pained expression as he reaches across the table to gently touch her hand. ‘Please accept my sincerest apologies, I realise that this may upset you but your signature will need to match the one in your passport.’ spoke the doctor with well-practiced eloquence. He holds out the form for her to sign.
Rebecca looks down at the paper in front of her and swallows. She takes the pen, her scribble confirming her name, not who she was but the name she had been born with: David Stanley.